Dr. Laura Severance is the Director of Military Personnel Research at Fors Marsh Group. She has a background in gender dynamics and sexual assault, with a focus on the Military, military recruiting, cross-cultural issues, and negotiation. Laura’s team conducts research (primarily surveys and focus groups) related to quality-of-life issues within the Military, focusing on gender relations, race/ethnicity-based discrimination, general force well-being, and military spouse well-being, among other topics.
Earlier this month, several members of the FMG team attended an intensive training led by the RIVA Training Institute that focused on the fundamentals of moderating. The training offers an experiential environment for students to learn about focus groups in the context of qualitative market research. RIVA is considered the gold standard in terms of moderator training providers, and their students learn how to facilitate discussion among focus group participants to extract information on specific topics.
At FMG, we believe that being a professional and effective moderator is important, and the RIVA moderator training provides the skills for our employees to meet the research objectives identified by the client and the research team. The RIVA course teaches that moderating is both a science and an art: applying best practices in moderating is a science, and crafting a dialogue among a group of people is an art. The course focuses on designing a clear research purpose statement, preparing a clear, workable guide and executing and honing skills to conduct lively focus groups with respondents.
The course also teaches students to moderate in a way that ensures a variety of perspectives are represented in a focus group, which is key to a comprehensive yet nuanced understanding of research phenomena. Students learn strategies that promote dialogue about key information, even when the subject is difficult. Furthermore, an important job of the moderator is to assure respondents that he or she is listening without judgment or partiality. RIVA training focuses extensively on building these skills that are key to ensuring high-quality focus groups.
When conducting focus groups, well-trained moderators offer several benefits, whereas untrained moderators present various risks. For example, if a moderator is not properly trained, he or she runs the risk of losing control of the group and the objectives of the research. Further, untrained moderators may also lack experience with proven tools and tactics to keep conversations on track to elicit information from all group members. Without these strategies, one participant might dominate the conversation in a group or participants may veer off topic, thus, compromising the research objectives of the group. Focus groups that do not meet research objectives are costly, time-consuming and can lead organizations to incorrect conclusions.
Our trained moderators look forward to applying the skills they have learned to help our clients reach their goals through high-quality qualitative research.